Saturday, March 27, 2010

April Showers in March

Sunshine and Showers
After the rain
After the rain
After the rain
After the rain

The crocus and iris have disappeared, but the daffodils are here, bravely attempting to face off the rain.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Birthday treats

It was my birthday this week. Another birthday and still no thesis! Nevermind, I'm working on it. It also means this blog of mine is two years old. Well done blog. We had a slow start, but I feel we've come to know each other rather well in recent months. I wanted to post up a picture of my birthday cake in the same way as it all started, but I was forbidden from taking a picture of my cake this year as it didn't turn out as Dan planned it.... (not that he made as much mess as me when I made his last September) never mind blog, here's some other birthday treats for you:

birthday treats
chocolates from Cocoa Mountain

Birthday treats
a silly owl for your hair

Birthday treats
and a book about you!

Happy Birthday Blog! x

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Emergency Jammin'

Sloe Gin

So, the Sloe Gin mentioned in passing recently was, obviously, somewhat out of season. Dan and I picked 3kg of sloes when we went to visit my Dad last Autumn. Enough for 6 liters of gin if we wanted it! We dumped them in the freezer to try and get the best out of them with the plan of getting gin in the duty free. Sadly, at the point I passed through O'Hare International on the way home I was broke - I bought a bottle of gin, but it had more immediate requirements in the house and a slow maturing sloe gin was out of the question...

sloe picking

Well, we got the sloe gin on finally, after a bit of recovery in the monetary department. We only used 1.5kg of sloes though. Then, when the freezer broke we had 1.5kg of sloes thawing as well as another 1kg of miscellaneous summer fruit. When life hands you lemons/broken freezers, the only option is to make jam. And lots of it.

Emergency Jam

I estimated reduced pectin because of the extended freeze, so made a pectin stock with the peels and cores of cooking apples and put the chopped up flesh in in the jam. So the recipe as it is...

800g cooking apples
150g blackcurrants
300g redcurrants
200g blackberries
1.5kg sloes
1.5 pts of water
2.5kg of sugar

  Peel and core apples, and boil the peels and cores in 1 pint of water for 45 minutes. Save the water. Chop the flesh up finely. Cook the fruit and apple flesh with the peel/core water and an extra half pint, add the sugar. Skim the sloe stones off the top as they float to the surface after the sugars added. Bring to setting point and jar.

Emergency Jam
looks quite a lot like special effects from Shaun of the Dead...

Good news: I estimated the amount of pectin required pretty well and got a really nice set. Bad news: sloes are tart and I was prevented from adding more sugar (it needs at least another 0.5kg if not a kg). My friend Laura was like this when we made the damson jam too, fortunately I won that battle at the time. Sloes also have stones, lots of 'em, and the're small. Dan and I succeeded in fishing out about 90% at which point we decided we could live with spotting them as we spread. A hedgerow jam with faults then, but still edible - might be quite nice in brie sandwiches.

Emergency Jam

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Madness on needles

There's still knitting round these parts, it's just crazy person knitting. Writing up has made me incapable of following any pattern I cannot immediately memorise, or make up as I go along. Charts are out. Prime example number one:

Tweed headphones
Who doesn't want tweed headphones?

Hat in progress
This is the Pickles Waffle Hat. Not crazy in and of itself, but I became obsessed by splitting the layers. This involved a lot of picking up stitches in the silk/mohair skinny strand from the fat strand. On interchangeable circulars, so skinny got trapped in the join. Hmmmm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekend in review...

It starts here:
crocus lawn

The crocus lawn at the entrance to Hampstead Heath, on the way to the Parliament Hill farmer's market. There's snow drops too, but once the crocus kick in you can never see them. It does this every year - a crocus display to rival Kew. It's a shame it wasn't a sunny day to make the photo even more spectacular. Sunday morning arrived with the discovery that our freezer was broken and defrosted. For some reason this brought us great merriment (and a GIANT vat of chilli to use up the thawed mince). Sunday morning also involved a trip to the 'recycling centre' (aka 'the tip') to do some, well, recycling - thrilling, I know - but I did score these (for free!!):


Our own crocus lawn is coming on apace, it's pretty much peaking at this very moment. I think Dan and I have liked this even more than we thought we would. It's sort of, unexpectedly great. We didn't get that many bulbs, but they're all putting up multiple flowers. This might have been down to the extra cold winter, as crocus displays everywhere seem good.


The veggie patch is starting to look purposeful too - helped by spades and forks here admittedly. Dan laid a new path so you can actually reach the four quarters without becoming a gymnast. Weeding later in the season is a possibility now. Sowed carrots, parsnips and radish's and a second batch of peas (the first are hardening off a little before going in the patch.)

purposful patch
View from the veggie patch
View from the veggie patch in the early Sunday Evening (imagine blackbirds singing)

The evening culminated in dinner from the giant vat of chilli and a quick dash on the bikes over to the Roundhouse to watch Grizzly Bear. The Bear were great, even played 'deep blue sea' which made Dan and I very happy indeed. The event was slightly tinged by being surrounded by psycho girls, culminating in one of them dumping a pint over a guy before running off - his crime was being tall. But the stage lights were pretty enough to be distracting - like jars of fireflies

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I've been reading a lot more gardening blogs recently and I thought I'd join in with this. My first time with this blog meme, hosted by May Dreams Gardens. Here we go... Crocus, Iris, Hazel and almost, almost a daffodil, but not quite.

daffodil budding

I should credit the picture of the hazel to Dan though! (x)


It's hard to stop getting over excited every time something germinates....

Morning Glory (what's the story?)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A movie of the successful shots of pollen leaving the hazel catkins. This took a surprisingly long time to get right and in the end required "sport mode" on the camera...


This weekend, in my infinite wisdom, I decided it was Spring. More through optimism with having a few sunny days rather than anything to do with temperature or the time of year, but I'm going through with this conviction. I mean, it must be spring - I have daffodils in the house, and pussy willows, Dan and I had our first trip of the year to the flower market, and I'm attempting not to fall into a seed sowing frenzy.


I   have diligently put the majority of the pussy willows in a vase without water, so the pussies don't fall off - top seasonal advice there from the knitting blogosphere, you never know where the useful bit of information will come from. I did sneak a couple of the smaller twigs in with the daffs to see if they would root. Probably not sensible - I doubt there's room for a willow tree of any variety round here...


Sunday in the garden was almost intoxicating with sunshine. As well as the daffs and willow we also indulged in half a dozen more pots of Iris from the flower market. At £5 for six pots and such a deep colour, it was hard to say no. Apparently I'm now obsessed with these things. There were also some pale indigo ones on another stall, very delicate and pretty, but the saturated purple won me over.

IrisI don't generally approve of pictures of me in general, let alone on here, but I liked the way my green cardigan makes the Iris look even more purple. Needless to say this photo was taken by Dan.


Tomato seeds were sown and many cuttings were potted on. Dan dug over the vegetable patch ready for peas and carrots. We even got the Sloe Gin on, finally. All in all, a successful weekend.